Gigantism is abnormally large growth due to an excess of growth hormone during childhood, before the bone growth plates have closed.


The most common cause of too much growth hormone release is a noncancerous (benign) tumor of the pituitary gland. Other causes include:

  • Carney complex
  • McCune-Albright syndrome (MAS)
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN-1)
  • Neurofibromatosis

If excess growth hormone occurs after normal bone growth has stopped, the condition is known as acromegaly.


In pituitary tumors with well-defined borders, surgery is the treatment of choice and can cure many cases.

For situations in which surgery cannot completely remove the tumor, medication is the treatment of choice. The most effective medications are somatostatin analogs (such as octreotide or long-acting lanreotide), which reduce growth hormone release.

Dopamine agonists (bromocriptine mesylate, cabergoline) have also been used to reduce growth hormone release, but these are generally less effective. Pegvisomant, a medication that blocks the effect of growth hormone, may be used.

Radiation therapy has also been used to bring growth hormone levels to normal. However, it can take 5 – 10 years for the full effects to be seen and almost always leads to low levels of other pituitary hormones.

Radiation has also been linked to learning disabilities, obesity, and emotional changes in children. Most experts will use radiation only if surgery and medication fail.

Famous specimen

  •     Giant of Castelnau circa 4,000 B.C.
  •     John Middleton (1578–1623), apocryphal
  •     Trijntje Keever (1616–1633) presumed to have been the tallest woman ever.[1], apocryphal
  •     Patrick Murphy (1834–1862), apocryphal
  •     Zhan Shi Chai (1840s-1893)
  •     Julius Koch (1872–1902, eunuchoidal-infantile gigantism, his legs ultimately had to be amputated due to gangrene.[2]
  •     John Aasen (1890-1938), actor in silent films, vaudeville. vies with Robert Wadlow as the tallest human ever recorded. Some reports have Aasen close to 9 ft. tall.
  •     Jane Bunford (1895–1922) tallest woman ever until Zeng Jinlian.
  •     Bernard Coyne (1897–1921)
  •     Clifford Thompson (1904–1955)
  •     Jack Earle (1906–1952)
  •     Väinö Myllyrinne (1909–1963)
  •     Johann K. Petursson (1913–1984) dubbed “The Viking giant”
  •     Henry Hite (1915–1972)
  •     Felipe Birriel (August 16, 1916–March 15, 1994) El Gigante de Carolina honored in Carolina, Puerto Rico
  •     Robert Pershing Wadlow (1918–1940) Recognized as tallest human being ever
  •     Don Koehler (1925–1981)
  •     Max Palmer (1928–1984)
  •     John F. Carroll (1932–1969)
  •     Eddie Carmel (1936–1972) “The Jewish Giant” photographed by Diane Arbus.
  •     Richard Kiel (b. September 13, 1939) actor (Jaws from James Bond)
  •     Suleiman Ali Nashnush (1943–1991) Libya
  •     Carel Struycken (b. July 30, 1948 in The Hague, Netherlands) Actor with acromegalic gigantism.
  •     Alam Channa (1953–1988)
  •     Sandy Allen (1955–2008) pituitary gigantism, was recognized as the tallest living woman at the time of her death.[3]
  •     Alexander Sizonenko (b. 1959), tallest living Russian, formerly a basketball player
  •     Zeng Jinlian (1964–1982) believed to be the tallest woman ever, but scoliosis kept her from standing erect
  •     Jorge Gonzales (1966–2010) tallest wrestler ever
  •     Radhouane Charbib (b. 1968)
  •     Gheorghe Muresan (b. February 14, 1971) tallest NBA player in history
  •     Leonid Stadnyk (b. 1971)
  •     Yao Defen (b. July 15, 1972)
  •     Matthew McGrory (1973–2005) actor in Big Fish and other films
  •     Nikolai Valuev (b. 1973) former WBA heavyweight champion
  •     Ajaz Ahmed (b. 1976)
  •     Sultan Kösen (b. 1983) tallest living man
  •     Sun Ming Ming (b. 1983)
  •     Vikas Uppal (1986–2007)
  •     Kenny George (b. 1987), former UNC Asheville basketball player